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Mikaela Shiffrin pursues World Cup overall title this weekend

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Mikaela Shiffrin can all but wrap up the World Cup overall title this weekend, live on NBC Sports.

The Olympic slalom champion headlines the fields for giant slalom and slalom races at the penultimate World Cup stop in Squaw Valley, Calif., on Friday and Saturday.

Shiffrin’s unparalleled season to date includes nine World Cup wins — most by any man or woman — with six slaloms, two giant slaloms and a super combined.

She leads the standings for the World Cup overall title — the biggest annual prize in ski racing — by 178 points with six total races left. The season ends with the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., next week, near Shiffrin’s Vail home.

Four years ago, Shiffrin had just become the youngest women’s world champion since 1985, taking the slalom at age 17. She followed that up by becoming the youngest Olympic slalom champion — man or woman — in Sochi.

Now, she’s on the verge of going into the Olympic year as the world’s best all-around female skier, the title associated with World Cup overall champion.

The overall title goes to the skier who accumulates the most points across all disciplines — downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, super combined — over the course of more than 30 races in a season.

Shiffrin rarely starts downhill or super-G, but nobody in the world at the moment is capable of earning podiums in all five disciplines.

This weekend, Shiffrin can all but seize the crystal globe trophy for the overall title. The scoring system awards 100 points to race winners, 80 points to second place and 60 points to third in a descending scale all the way to the 30th-place finisher.

Shiffrin’s closest pursuer, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, struggles in the disciplines on this weekend’s schedule in Squaw Valley.

If Shiffrin and Stuhec repeat their average giant slalom and slalom results, Shiffrin will increase her lead from 178 points to nearly 300 points this weekend. That would be a pretty much insurmountable lead with just four races left the following week in Aspen.

Shiffrin can become the youngest male or female overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic won the second of her three titles at age 21 in 2003.

She would become the fifth American to take the crown after Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

The Olympic season would bring a whole new set of expectations next fall, including this: the possibility of becoming the first U.S. woman to earn three gold medals at a single Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley World Cup Schedule
Friday
Giant Slalom Run 1 — 1 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
Giant Slalom Run 2 — 4 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app

Saturday
Slalom Run 1 — 1 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
Slalom Run 2 — 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app

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MORE: One year out: PyeongChang Olympic storylines

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)